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SAN FRANCISCO PUBLIC LIBRARY 



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^HEARING 

SENATEJIULES COMMITTEE 

STATE OF CALIFORNIA 




DOCUMENTS DEPT. 

MAY 2 2 23C0 

SAN FRANCISCO 
PUBLIC LIBRARY 



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352.2509 

C128 



STATE CAPITOL 

ROOM 113 

SACRAMENTO, CALIFORNIA 

MONDAY, MAY 15, 2000 
2:04 P.M. 



398 




San Francisco Public Library 

30VERNM' ' T : IPWATION CENTER 
SAN FRANCISCO P i3UC LIBRARY 

100 r.xiii STaoET 

SaN FRANCISCO, CA 94102 



REFERENCE BOOK 



Not to be taken from the Library 



SENATE RULES COMMITTEE 
STATE OF CALIFORNIA 



HEARING 



STATE CAPITOL 

ROOM 113 

SACRAMENTO, CALIFORNIA 



MONDAY, MAY 15, 2 000 
2:04 P.M. 



Reported by: 



Evelyn J. Mizak 
Shorthand Reporter 



3 1223 06835 5412 



11 



APPEARANCES 

MEMBERS PRESENT 

SENATOR JOHN BURTON, Chair 

SENATOR JOHN LEWIS, Vice Chair 

SENATOR JOE BACA 

SENATOR TERESA HUGHES 

SENATOR WILLIAM KNIGHT 

SENATOR JACK ' CONNELL 

STAFF PRESENT 

GREG SCHMIDT, Executive Officer 

PAT WEBB, Committee Secretary 

NETTIE SABELHAUS, Consultant on Governor's Appointments 

WADE TEASDALE, Consultant to SENATOR LEWIS 

FELICE TANENBAUM, Consultant to SENATOR HUGHES 

ANDY PUGNO, Consultant to SENATOR KNIGHT 

ALSO PRESENT 

TOMAS ALVARADO, Secretary 
Veterans Affairs 



Ill 

INDEX 

Page 
Proceedings 1 

Governor ' s Appointees : 

TOMAS ALVARADO, Secretary 

Veterans Affairs 1 

Questions by CHAIRMAN BURTON re: 

Cause of Death of Resident 

PAUL STEVENS , Barstow Home 1 

DR. VU' s Statement 1 

Death Reported by Whom 2 

Broccoli as Cause of Death 3 

Questions by SENATOR LEWIS re: 

Awareness that DR. VU Was Under 

Pressure to File False Affidavit 3 

Questions by CHAIRMAN BURTON re: 

Why Did Department Place DR. VU on 
Administrative Leave and Fire Him 4 

Order Came from Headquarters 5 

Questions by SENATOR O'CONNELL re: 

Autopsy of MR. STEVENS 6 

Statements by CHAIRMAN BURTON re: 

No Purpose to Further Hearing 6 

Heart Attack vs . Choking on Food 7 

Statements by SENATOR HUGHES re: 

Lack of Satisfactory Answers 7 



IV 



Motion to Adjourn Meeting 7 

Termination of Proceedings 8 

Certificate of Reporter 9 



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P-R-O-C-E-E-D-I-N-G-S 
— ooOoo — 

CHAIRMAN BURTON: Okay we'll continue the hearing 
of Tomas Alvarado. 

MR. ALVARADO: Good afternoon, Senator, Members. 

CHAIRMAN BURTON: Good afternoon. 

I believe that, Nettie, tomorrow is the last day 
for the Senate to act on your confirmation. 

MS. SABELHAUS: Wednesday. 

CHAIRMAN BURTON: We have time, lots of time. 

So, tomorrow would be the last day for the 
Committee to report something, because we may have one more 
hearing on this. 

But just to start, last week, when we talked 
about Paul Stevens, the Barstow resident who died, and it was 
testified, you testified that he died of a heart attack, and 
there was no need to report it to DHS. 

We know now that Dr. Vu, the Barstow staff 
attending physician, and Coroner both said that the cause of 
death was that he had choked on a large piece of broccoli. 

Do you still insist it was a heart attack? 

MR. ALVARADO: The deposition that we were given 
by Dr. Vu, yes, sir, based on the statement that he made. Yes, 
sir. 

CHAIRMAN BURTON: He made the statement? 

MR. ALVARADO: Yes, sir. 

CHAIRMAN BURTON: To whom? 

MR. ALVARADO: To our counsel. 



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CHAIRMAN BURTON: I guess we've got to now bring 
him in. Is he here? 

MR. ALVARADO: Our counsel? 

CHAIRMAN BURTON: No. 

MR. ALVARADO: Dr. Vu, no. 

CHAIRMAN BURTON: Now, were you present at 
Barstow when Mr. Stevens died? 

MR. ALVARADO: No, sir, I wasn't. I was at a 
meeting for the VFW and American Legion in West Covena. 

CHAIRMAN BURTON: Who reported the death to you? 

MR. ALVARADO: I didn't find out about that 
death until, gosh darn, it must have been March. And I think it 
was — 

CHAIRMAN BURTON: Somebody dies, and nobody 
thinks it's worth mentioning? 

MR. ALVARADO: I was there the whole weekend, 
Senator. Nobody told me that he died. In fact, when he died, I 
was surprised. 

CHAIRMAN BURTON: Why were you surprised? 

MR. ALVARADO: Nobody told me. No one told me. 

CHAIRMAN BURTON: Who told you when they told 



you? 



told me. 



MR. ALVARADO: I believe it was our counsel that 



CHAIRMAN BURTON: Now, Dr. Vu said that the 
Barstow administration started combing through his medical 
charts for errors after he refused to change his diagnosis of 
death and say it was a heart attack. His point is that he 



always said that he was choked on a piece of broccoli. 

MR. ALVARADO: That — that's not what he gave us 
a statement on, Senator. The statement — I should have brought 
it with me. 

The deposition that he provided us was that he 
was alive and was not — that it was as the result of a heart 
attack. 

And I have it right here, sir. 

SENATOR LEWIS: May I ask a question. 

I guess the question I have — 

CHAIRMAN BURTON: Wait a minute. This is from 
Michael Gold. This is not from Dr. Vu. 

Go ahead. 

SENATOR LEWIS: At this point in time, have you 
become aware that at any point in time, Dr. Vu was under any 
pressure to file any kind of a false affidavit? 

MR. ALVARADO: No. 

SENATOR LEWIS: And he has not alleged that to be 
the case? 

MR. ALVARADO: No. 

CHAIRMAN BURTON: He has alleged it to be the 

case. 

MR. ALVARADO: It's news to me . I haven't — 
nobody's told me about this. 

He has not written any — communicated with me. 

CHAIRMAN BURTON: Maybe he figures that's an idle 

act. 

He said that the administration started combing 



through his medical charts for errors after he refused to change 
his diagnosis and say it was a heart attack. 

Obviously/ you weren't aware of that. You just 
said so. 

Did they find any real errors in his charts? You 
wouldn't know because you didn't know they did that. 

The Department then placed him on administrative 
leave, and then fired him instead of following the state's 
progressive disciplinary policy. 

Why did they do that? 

MR. ALVARADO: Sir, I'd have to refer to — our 
interim administrator was pretty much in charge of that — 

CHAIRMAN BURTON: You're here trying to keep a 
job. You know this is an issue, and you pass the buck to 
everybody. 

Let me tell you, I'm semi-inclined to at least 
let your matter go to the Floor for the Senate to work its will, 
and I would vote not to confirm. But it's getting harder and 
harder not just to let this thing run its path so we can deal 
with other stuff that's equally as important, like the state 
budget . 

I mean, you come here. You know you've got a 
problem. You know this is an issue. And this guy's got it, and 
that guy's got it, and somebody else has got it. 

And you don't even care to inform yourself about 
it. 

Here's a guy who was the doctor who performed 
whatever with the patient who died, which is of some discussion 



here, and was some discussion last week. And he got canned, and 
you know nothing about it. Must have been somebody else. 

That is a wonderful way to run the operation, 
sir. 

Okay, so we have to bring somebody else in, too. 
Maybe we can keep hearing this all the way through next week. 

The doctor said that the administrator, 
Mr. Rigoli, told him that the order to place him on 
administrative leave came from Headquarters. Obviously — did 
you issue that order? 

MR. ALVARADO: Yes, sir, I did. I issued it 
because we — when I found out about this death, Dr. Vu has a 
history of inconsistencies when it comes to documentation. So, 
this pretty much reinforced the concerns that I had about his 
practice application. 

CHAIRMAN BURTON: When I asked you why you 
placed him on administrative leave and fired him, you pointed to 
somebody else. Now you're — 

MR. ALVARADO I didn't fire him. 

CHAIRMAN BURTON: — saying you gave the order. 

MR. ALVARADO: I didn't fire him. 

CHAIRMAN BURTON: What is he on, then? 

MR. ALVARADO: I think currently right now, I 
don't think he's with us any more. 

But I did not fire him. 

CHAIRMAN BURTON: Well, he obviously didn't 
quit, because he's going through a Skelley hearing, so somebody 
did something. 



autopsy done? 



Any questions anybody else has. 

SENATOR O'CONNELL: If I may, was there an 

MR. ALVARADO: No, no. The body was cremated. 
SENATOR O'CONNELL: Was that even discussed at 



the time? 



MR. ALVARADO: Not to my knowledge, Senator. Not 
to my knowledge. It wasn't discussed with me or any of our 
staff there, because he died — supposedly he died at another 
hospital outside the Veterans Home. He was supposed — he was 
alleged to be alive, was alive, when he left our facility. So, 
he actually died at an outside facility. 

CHAIRMAN BURTON: If I could, Senator. 

"Checked the resident's heart," blah, blah, blah, 
"Checked the resident's heart beat with a stethoscope. Detected 
no heart beat during this time. I noticed he had a pacemaker. I 
checked the airway. There was no air. I started CPR and asked 
a person to check his mouth. After 30 seconds, there was no 
pulse, color of his skin turned dark. I asked the CNA to put 
her finger deeper in the mouth. She pulled out a piece of 
broccoli and other food stuff. Air then came out." 

Ergo, he was choking. 

I tell you, I don't see any more purpose to this 
hearing. I see absolutely no purpose to the hearing. 

We're going to be on the Floor tomorrow. I may 
or may not ask for the rules to be waived to have another one, 
but, I mean, it's exceedingly, exceedingly difficult even to let 
this go to the Floor, where my Members will be put in a position 



of doing what they think is right, or having to support, you 
know, an appointee of their own party's governor. I mean, it's 
a difficult thing for me; it's even a more difficult decision 
for other people. 

But it doesn't get better. It gets worse. It 
gets worse. 

I mean, you know, nobody told you the guy choked 
on a piece of broccoli. Told you he died of a heart attack. 

What you just said about the guy's statement, 
clearly said that whatever it is, the proximate cause, was 
choking on the food, which stopped him from breathing, which 
stopped the air, which caused heart attack. 

If somebody shoots you, you end up dying of a 
heart attack because your heart stops. It's how you die. 

Unless somebody's got anything else to say, or 
any questions, Secretary Johnson, you know, at our request, 
directed Dr. Bonte to be here. And I think she has interviewed 
Dr. Vu, who basically, his conversation with her confirms the 
points that were laid out here. I don't know whether there's 
any purpose of bringing the Department of Health Services. 

I mean, I'm having real trouble dealing with 
this. I don't know if that's obvious to anybody. 

So, you don't know. 

Anybody? Senator Hughes. 

SENATOR HUGHES: I asked a lot of questions last 
week. I did not receive satisfactory answers, and some refusal 
to give a satisfactory answer was absolutely ridiculous. 

I'd like to move adjournment of the meeting, if 



8 

it's in order. 

CHAIRMAN BURTON: It's always in order. 

It's been moved that the meeting adjourn. 

Any objections, all Members will be recorded Aye, 

the motion to adjourn. Without objection. 

[Thereupon this portion of the 
Senate Rules Committee hearing was 
terminated at approximately 2:20 P.M.] 
— 00O00 — 



CERTIFICATE OF SHORTHAND REPORTER 

I, EVELYN J. MIZAK, a Shorthand Reporter of the State 
of California, do hereby certify: 

That I am a disinterested person herein; that the 
foregoing transcript of the Senate Rules Committee hearing was 
reported verbatim in shorthand by me, Evelyn J. Mizak, and 
thereafter transcribed into typewriting. 

I further certify that I am not of counsel or 
attorney for any of the parties to said hearing, nor in any way 
interested in the outcome of said hearing. 

a IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand this 
/J day of ^WJ^f- , 2000. 





A 



J. MIZAK 
>horthancrReporter 




398-R 

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